Community garden still going strong after five years

The music was blaring as residents walked the street fair on Raymond Avenue in South Los Angeles, on Saturday, to celebrate the saving of its community garden by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and philanthropist Erika Glazer, along with the City and County of Los Angeles.

imageErika J. Glazer Community Garden (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

A ceremony was held to announce the renaming of the the Raymond Avenue Community Garden to Erika J. Glazer Community Garden, and to unveil a new sign for the Glazer Garden, which was designed by its founder, resident Julie Burleigh.

Booths were set up along the street around the DJ for residents to receive information about everything from conserving water to making a worm compost.

Children lined up eager to get their face-painted, and many had their hand cupped around small, makeshift pot made out of newspaper.

“I planted beans,” said Melissa Ramirez.

The eight-year-old scooped dirt into her pot and planted her seeds, right before spraying some water on top of the fresh dirt.

imageMelissa Ramirez (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

Nkoli Udeorji, a volunteer with the grass-roots organization LA Green Grounds, stood behind a table to show other kids how to plant their seed of choice. She said being at the event is a great way to connect with the community.

“I thought we would bring the kids and let them run around,” said Karlyn Johnson, who heard about the event from another parent.

Johnson lives just a few blocks away from Raymond Avenue and said she had never known there was a garden so close to her residence.

“The more we can do stuff [like this] the more we can help the neighborhood,” said Johnson.

Julie Burleigh, who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, started the garden in 2008 out of a desire to be more involved in her community and create a space for growing food.

Inside, there are 35, squared-off plots. A total of 24 families grow their own food and plants, with some owning multiple pots.

Demand is high for a chance to own a plot said Burleigh, as she points to a waiting list on a table outside of the garden’s entrance. She said right now the garden is only available to the community gardeners, but she is looking to open it up for the whole community in the future.

Almost three years ago, Burleigh reached out for help to the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT), an organization that helps underserved communities develop and manage small parks and community gardens.

The 5,000 square-foot space that was being maintained by community gardeners was at risk of being taken away. The property owner owed $100,000 in back taxes, but LANLT was able to step in and also find philanthropist Erika Glazer.

Glazer donated $150,000 to pay off the taxes as well as upgrades to the garden.

Burleigh said she is surprised that the community garden has been able to survive.

“I’m also so surprised that an organization an come in and save it. It’s hard to manage a community garden – more failures than success,” she said. “It’s amazing…a total dream come true.”

“It’s a great way to be a part of the community and to get to know people and connect with people everyday,” said Burleigh.

New community garden rededicated in light of tragedy

imageLast April, two Chinese students attending USC were fatally shot as they sat in their car early in the morning. Community members, who live just steps away from the tragic site, invite other locals to celebrate a new milestone on Saturday, March 16 with the opening of a new garden.

The garden, located at 2632 Raymond Ave., will be rededicated as the Erica J. Glazer Community Garden in honor of a generous donor who worked to secure the property, once it came up for public auction. The rededication will include a street fair with food, craft activities, face painting, and information booths about local health and gardening resources from 11am to 2pm.

The garden will serve as a peaceful oasis for community members, who hope Chinese students will grow their own flowers in the garden as a way of developing a relationship with local residents.

Community garden victory in South LA

imageThe green thumbs at the Raymond Avenue Community Garden are celebrating a big victory. As of Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust is the new owner of the land where nearby residents grow their fruits and vegetables.

For the past five years, Angela Lang, the property’s owner, allowed Julie Burleigh to use her abandoned property as a community garden, with the promise that they would leave should she want to sell it. The situation worried Burleigh, who came up with the idea of the community garden, tracked down Lang and negotiated the conditions of use of the land.

Lang owed $100,000 in back taxes and thanks to the generosity of a donor who stepped in, the Land Trust was able to buy the land to convert it into permanent green space in the city before it was auctioned off.

Listen to Burleigh talk about the garden:

Photos of the empty lot and community gardeners courtesy of Julie Burleigh.